Self-Criticism From the Left
A welcome piece from the L.A. Weekly.
The author, John Powers, "found it faintly depressing that so many on the left are still obsessed with anger at Bush. It’s time to get over it. Loathing the guy may have filled Kerry’s campaign coffers — and fattened Michael Moore’s wallet — but it wasn’t enough to beat him. In fact, it may have even cost the Democrats the election. Growing fixated on one man is bad politics." It's an unhealty obsesssion. It's a kind of mass hysteria, a crowd mentality that finds a scape-goat and enjoys literally burning its effigy.
Powers says something I was just thinking about the other day in the shower, "the right has become the agent of change. In contrast, the left has become — there’s no other word for it — reactionary. ... Even worse, it’s become the side that’s forever saying "No."" Ouch. But it's true.
There may not be a "Social Security crisis" but clearly the program has serious structural problems. The Right has ideas about solving this. You may not like the ideas but they exist in some detail. Where is the Left's solution? Stay the course. That is more of the problem.
What about Iran? We may or may not have teams in Iran researching the nuke sites for possible military strikes. But what are the other options? Keep talking until they have the Bomb? Learn to live with it? These are not ideas so much as resignation.
The Israeli-Arab conflict? Even since 2000 when Arafat gave Clinton the finger there hasn't been a notable idea from the Left. The Right has only one idea, the Road Map, but at least it's something. Even in Israel itself the ideas are coming from the Right: leave Gaza, build a barrier, assassinate terrorists. The Left's big idea is the Geneva Initiative, which as far as I can tell is "Oslo 2: This Time It's Personal." Again, more of the same, a repeat of efforts that failed previously.
The Republicans have several prominent politicians, Schwarzenegger, Pataki, Giuliani, who are all pro-choice. Can you name a single national Democratic figure who is pro-life? No, you can't. The Left doesn't even want to allow that idea into its internal debate. Not a good sign.
The single big idea on the Left is gay marriage. It also happens to be an idea that was shot down by wide majorities in every state where it was on the ballot, even Oregon. Worse, most people see this as either solving a non-problem or solving a problem that is minor when compared to the other issues facing us. To put that single idea at the front of the party sends a terrible signal to most Americans. It's a PR disaster.
The Right is expanding, not just intellectually, but demographically. How does the Left respond? "But today’s left remains mired in a reflexive, defeatist negativity that became obvious after the election. The Nation’s subscribers sent letters calling Bush voters racists, homophobes, warmongers and yahoos. ... Meanwhile, the blogosphere was filled with "Fuck the South" e-mails and lazy ruminations on the "red states"". As a Southerner who voted for Bush (but who voted for Clinton twice) I can tell you that insulting people does not win them to your cause.
And I'm angry and disappointed with the Left. I mean, yes, I'm angry at the idiots, the peaceniks, the blamers and the defeatists. They suck and I wish they would go away. But I'm disappointed that the Dems didn't put forth a real choice. I'm angry that they made me vote Republican for the first time. What's more, it wasn't a tough choice. I didn't agonize over it. It wasn't even close. I never seriously considered Kerry. That's sad. On paper I fit quite well into a Democratic profile but I wrote them off very early in the race. Why?
Kerry's "vagueness was his party’s vagueness — indeed, the whole left’s vagueness — in a hypercapitalist world in which socialism can no longer be used as a threat or a promise.
What the left lacks is not a galvanizing messenger but a positive message, a set of energizing ideas and values. It’s not enough to oppose the invasion of Iraq or Bush’s plans for Social Security. That’s merely to react against someone else’s agenda." Amen brother.
What should the Left do? Powers lists four lame points which you can read for yourself. I'll post my list of lame points later.